Two Midwest racetracks in different states are joining forces to offer more racing opportunities for state-bred runners.
Prairie Meadows in Iowa and Canterbury Park in Minnesota said Jan. 30 the plan will allow Minnesota-bred horses to compete in Iowa-bred races before the Canterbury meet begins May 17, and Iowa-bred runners to race in Minnesota-bred races when Prairie Meadows closes Aug. 10.
Prairie Meadows opens April 19, meaning there will be about an extra month for Minnesota-bred horses to compete in restricted company. The Canterbury meet ends Sept. 17, so Iowa-bred Thoroughbreds will get an extra month-plus to race in restricted company.
Derron Heldt, director of racing at Prairie Meadows, said the two tracks plan to host the joint restricted races each week during the time the other track is not racing Thoroughbreds, with three or four race conditions possible. According to a release, Iowa Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association president Leroy Gessmann proposed the concept to the Minnesota HBPA last year in the hope of offering additional racing opportunities for horses from both states.
There have been talks in recent years on ways Canterbury and Prairie Meadows could work together on the racing side. The tracks, in neighboring states, are located about 250 miles apart.
"This is an excellent opportunity for Iowa Thoroughbreds to run in restricted state races beyond mid-August when our season ends at Prairie Meadows," Deb Leech, president of the Iowa Thoroughbred Breeders and Owners Association, said in the release. "The same holds true for Minnesota-bred horses to run, before Canterbury opens, in state-restricted races here in Iowa."
Leech said the tracks' purse structures are comparable, "so this is an attractive option for our breeders and owners. We look forward to a successful first year of these additional races and building on it for the future."
Prairie Meadows Thoroughbred purses in 2012 averaged $223,793, according to The Jockey Club Information Systems. At Canterbury purses averaged $134,436, but as part of a 10-year deal with a local Indian tribe, the pots will average about $170,000 per program in 2013 and will grow in future years.
Jockey Club statistics for 2010 show a Thoroughbred foal crop of 238 in Iowa and 193 in Minnesota. In Minnesota at least, the figure has since dropped, but the tribal deal is expected to reverse that trend.
"This collaboration presents additional racing opportunities for owners of Iowa and Minnesota-breds," Canterbury president Randy Sampson said.